16 November 2021
The construction industry is perhaps one of the most dangerous sectors. In fact, according to a report from Finder last year, Construction related jobs are the third most dangerous in Australia based on injuries or fatalities. In fact, according to the Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities report released by Safe Work Australia, data and statistics show that as of 11 November 2021, 17 Australian workers have tragically died in the course of doing construction work this year.
At Remedial, we have an enviable record for minimal injury on our sites – a record we aim to protect at all costs. Not only do we want to protect our staff and residents on the sites, but we recognize the impact injuries at work have – from physical and psychological impacts to delays in the project, to project cost impacts to insurance. Although working environments are safer than ever, there are still challenges:
Maintaining and operating a safe site is a requirement under law, however, so important is safety to us, that we have incorporated it into our operational model, developing a 360-degree approach to work where workplace safety is prioritized. This means that in addition to minimizing the effects of the below list, we also consider the importance of training, ongoing education, analysis of job sites for the development of detailed safety plans. Just a few ways we look to make our sites safe are through consideration of:
- Falling objects
- Exposure to dangerous substances
- Falls from a height
- Working in the sun
- Slips, trips and falls
- Use of power tools
- Manual handling and lifting of weights
- Loud and constant noise
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Work conducted in confined spaces
- Dust inhalation
- Tagging and testing
Importance of health and safety in construction
What some people fail to consider is that ensuring you have a safe workplace is not just about your own workers. Sure, it is the first thing that often springs to mind, but a safe site needs to encompass so much more and a wider audience than that. Site safety should consider contractors, delivery personnel, the residents of the building (including their comfort and security), the general public passing the vicinity of the building and needs to encompass more than just the safety of people working. It should also include the safety of occupants when the site is not occupied as well. For example, consideration needs to be given to the risk of objects falling from a height during work hours, but also after hours when staff are not there to stop things blowing around or securing access.
Whilst human safety will always be our primary concern, it would be naïve to ignore the commercial impacts of workplace accidents. Whilst nicks and cuts, a bruise or minor muscle strain are somewhat to be expected on site, larger, more significant incidents could lead to a number of corollary events: potential prolonged downtime, insurance claim investigations, insurance premium hikes, loss of staff and so on. We want to keep people safe, but also recognise that doing so, helps keep costs down, meaning we can be as competitive as possible when quoting work to you.
Lastly, there are the legal obligations and punitive threats of non-compliance which company directors need to consider. There are a few different requirements which the construction industry must adhere to:
- Work Health & Safety Act 2011- (Australian Government)
- Work Health & Safety Regulations 2011- (Australian Government)
- Other state-and-territory-specific WHS/OHS regulations
Construction safety on a site
Intrinsically, construction work is hazardous, and it is not a surprise it has a fatality rate higher than the national average when compared to other industries. However, through the implementation of site-specific workplace health and safety plans (encompassing job procedures, identification and the mitigation of risks, protocols and the like) job sites can be made safer.
There is a multitude of things that can go wrong, there are dozens of things you can do to make the workplace safer, and there are practices you can follow to try and make a workplace safer. Here are just a few:
Marking and labeling signage, and visual communication are fundamental parts of a safe work environment. These can be customised or site-specific messages to make workers aware of hazards, enhance safe behaviour, and decrease accidents in the work environment. At Remedial, we have worked to ensure that safety signs assume a fundamental role in ensuring a safe workplace. We have come to realise that effective, clear visual communication cues are lead to fewer accidents and injuries, and we have at times seen an increase in efficiency and less confusion throughout the workplace.
It goes without saying that it is a legal obligation to have safety rails in a place where falls are possible, but we’ve seen too many workplaces where shortcuts have been taken. Sometimes it is ending the rail short of where it should end, or not securing it properly, or not having kickboards in place to prevent things falling. Whatever it is, the risks from not erecting safety rails properly are not something to take lightly.
At times, we are required to work on rooftops where railings are not appropriate. In these cases, we use a personal-fall-arrest-system and approved anchor points.
Use scaffolders with appropriate licenses
Again, it may sound obvious, but in days gone by, scaffolding was less a science and more of a rough approximation. Today, scaffolding is recognized as a vital part of construction and is therefore scrutinized closely. Remember the collapsing scaffold event of 2019 where an 18-year-old tragically lost his life? The company was fined $900,000 and the lives of countless people were affected in so many different ways.
Scaffolders need to be licensed, the plans for erection built for purpose, and where possible, regular checks are undertaken.
Regular site inspection/certification
For us, it may be a little different to other construction-related firms, as we often work hand-in-hand with engineers and project super-intendents who act as the site inspectors and certifiers. However, given the recent scrutiny over approvals and the process of certification, the need to ensure your work is correctly certified and that the work provided is both professional and timely has become of paramount importance. Not only is it important for insurance, but certifiers play a pivotal role in ensuring ongoing Building Site Safety.
Development of SWMS
Under the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (WHS Regulation), any person conducting business or undertaking (PCBU) or any high-risk work in connection with construction projects is required to:
- ensure that before the proposed work begins, a safe work method statement (SWMS) is prepared
- ensure that the high-risk construction work is undertaken in line with the SWMS
- ensure that the principal contractor receives a copy of the SWMS before the work starts
- if necessary, ensure that a SWMS is reviewed and revised accordingly
- maintain a copy of the SWMS until the high-risk construction work is completed.
At Remedial we have documented, independently audited SWMS which work to show our ongoing commitment to safe work practices and a focus on zero workplace injuries.
We do not want to jinx ourselves, however, at Remedial, our safety record is an enviable one. We are a leading and trusted provider of building upgrades and repairs across the residential, commercial, industrial and institutional sectors and have years of experience we draw upon to ensure our mantra of safety first. Our safe-work approach is led by management, but embodied and put in place by our entire professional team (management and staff), and can be seen in our external accreditations.
We look forward to working with you and in ensuring ongoing Building Site Safety! If you have any questions, speak to our WHS supervisor, by getting in touch.CONTACT US
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